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Travel money guide: Switzerland

What every traveler needs to know about how to spend finding the right travel money product to use in Switzerland.

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Whether you plan on skiing the Matterhorn or exploring the historical Basel Munster church, you’ll need to organize your travel money before you arrive in Switzerland. If you’re not sure where to start, use our travel money guide to compare money options and plan your budget before your big vacation.

Because Switzerland isn’t part of the European Union, they use the Swiss franc instead of the euro. As a political and economic center of Europe, Switzerland boasts a huge international population with banking and financial services the center of their industry. You won’t have any problems finding ATMs, banks and merchants that take credit cards all over the country. Most businesses accept Mastercard and Visa, and you’ll find less that will take your American Express and Diners cards. Read on for a comparison of products you can use in Switzerland without the fees for international transactions.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options

There are a number of ways to access your money when you’re on vacation, and it’s best to use a combination of of products. Credit cards give you money when you need it and can cover you in a financial emergency. Debit cards are good for access to your cash, without all the traveling fees.

Whether you’re heading to Switzerland to hit the slopes or simply to enjoy the culture, be sure to get your spending budget in order before you leave so you can hit the slopes with no worries.

How many francs do I need to bring to Switzerland?

Yes, the rumors are true, Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to visit, and, according to some estimates, the most expensive country in the world to live. You can plan to spend anywhere from $75 to $400 a day, depending on what adventures you seek.

ZurichBudgetMidrangeExpensive
sleepSleepHostel
$45–$100 per night
2 star hotel
$100–$250 per night
5 star hotel
$250–$800 per night
foodEatSwiss sausage sandwich plus a pint of beer (street food)
$15
Noodle house (restaurant)
$30 per dish
Michelin star restaurant
$100 or more per person
rent-a-bikeDoRent a bike and ride around the city
Rental is free + $30 deposit
Entry to the Kunsthaus Gallery
$35 per person
50-minute massage for 2 at exclusive day spa
$350

*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change

Exchange rate history

The Swiss Franc is one of the most stable currencies in the world and definitely one of the most valuable. Since the Global Financial Crisis, the value of the US dollar has dropped against the Swiss franc. The past few years, 1 USD is worth about 0.90 CHF.

Compare money transfers to Switzerland

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Which one do I choose: Travel card, debit card or credit card?

Visa and Mastercard branded cards are accepted in more places than American Express and Diners cards throughout Switzerland. Look for logos at ATM point of sale terminals to be sure. Switzerland has a modern banking economy — it is their primary industry — so you won’t need lots of cash on your travels. If your card has a chip you’ll be able to make contactless payments.

Travel money options for Switzerland at a glance

Travel money optionProsConsiderations
Debit cards
  • Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
  • In case you lose your card, block transactions with a phone call
  • It’s easy to find ATMs in Switzerland
  • No back-up card if you lose it on your trip
  • Some charge currency conversion and ATM fees
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Hold multiple foreign currencies at a time
  • Save on currency conversion fees
  • Can case you lose your card, block transactions with a phone call
  • Comes with a back up card
  • Secured with a chip and a PIN technology
  • Money back guarantee for fraud
  • Not able to load Swiss francs
  • Pay a currency conversion fee to use USD
  • You’ll pay ATM fees
Credit cards
  • No currency conversion fees
  • Features such as insurance or reward points earning
  • Some offer no foreign transaction fees
  • You’ll pay a lot for a cash advance
  • Rewards program may cost more than they are worth
Traveler’s checks
  • Accepted at most banks and hotels
  • Security
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveler’s checks
Cash
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

Using travel cards, debit cards, credit cards and other options in Switzerland

Using credit cards

A travel credit card gives you access to a line of credit, and you won’t pay for currency conversion when you transact in francs. Compare cards that offer no foreign transaction fees and offer rewards. We don’t advise making a withdrawal on credit as cash advance charges apply and you’ll start paying an APR the day the transaction is made. Consider travel extras such as insurance or an increased rewards for travel when you’re comparing credit cards to use overseas.

  • Tip: Some providers waive cash advance charges when you keep a positive balance and make ATM withdrawals. Find out which providers let you do this and which won’t.
  • Using a credit card in Switzerland

Using debit cards

A debit card lets you spend and withdraw in Switzerland like you would at home. Find a debit card that waives the international ATM withdrawal fee and you can make free ATM withdrawals when you use an ATM offered by a Swiss bank — European and Swiss banks don’t charge ATM fees. The Charles Schwab could be a handy product to use in Switzerland, With no conversion or ATM fees, this card can save you money.

  • Tip: Make sure your debit card has a chip to avoid situations where you card won’t be accepted.

Using prepaid travel cards

There are no prepaid travel cards that hold Swiss francs. Usually, the advantage of these cards is you can hold multiple foreign currencies at a time and save on currency conversion fees. A travel card makes sense if you’re spending your time in the Eurozone (France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain etc) and the UK, but if you’re spending the majority of your time in Switzerland, you’ll pay for currency conversion when you spend in francs.

The currency conversion fee can be double the charge applied to most credit cards and debit cards. Travel money products can charge the Visa or Mastercard rate plus 4.5% for currency conversion and charges for international ATM withdrawals. So, regardless of which product you choose, you’re going to pay for currency conversion, international ATM withdrawals — or both when you use a travel card in Switzerland.

Using traveler’s checks

Traveler’s checks are an outdated way to travel with money — it’s far easier and cheaper to use an ATM. If you do have traveler’s checks, you can cash your them at exchange offices in train stations or a bank. Exchange offices offer the same rates as banks; however they may charge a commission for the transaction.

  • Tip: Banks are open during regular business hours Monday to Friday: 8:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.

Taking a cash with you

It’s cheaper to get your cash exchanged in Switzerland than in the US, and even cheaper still with a no-fee ATM card. If you do have US dollars or euros you need to exchange in Switzerland, bureaux de change outlets can be found at airports and train stations. You can also change your money at a bank, which will give you the most competitive rate for changing cash, and shouldn’t charge a commission either.

  • Tip: Some large retailers will accept euros — though a majority will not. If you use euros, you will get a worse rate than paying with the local currency.

Compare travel credit cards

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
American Express® Gold Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
$250
Earn up to 4x points on select purchases, a bevy of travel perks, and a welcome offer worth up to $600 with this upper-mid tier travel card. Rates & fees
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
80,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $1,000 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a huge signup bonus worth $1,000 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Citi Premier® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
3x points at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, flights and hotels and 1x points on everything else
$95
Earn 60,000 bonus points after making $4,000 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card
100,000 points after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months, plus earn 25,000 after the first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021)
6x points at Marriott Bonvoy hotels, 3x at US restaurants and on flights booked directly with airlines and 2x for all other purchases
$450
Earn 100,000 bonus points when you spend $5,000 or more within your first 3 months, plus earn 25,000 after the first anniversary of card membership (offer expires 1/13/2021). Rates & fees
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Compare up to 4 providers

Case study: Fresh tracks: Bart snowboarding in Verbier, Switzerland

Bart goes to Switzerland every couple of years to snowboard. He splurges on a six day heli-skiing package in Verbier, which is recognized as providing the best off-piste snowboarding in the world. He says he gets to the mountain from Geneva and, when he’s done, takes a little side trip to Berlin and then to Paris before flying home. He uses Swiss francs in Switzerland and euros in Germany and France. He spends about three weeks to a month in Europe each time he visits.

What cards did you take with you?

Why did you take these cards?

Charles Schwab is Bart’s everyday bank in the US, and he uses his credit card back home and doesn’t pay any fees for using any ATM.

The United Milage Plus card gave him access to the United Club airport lounges in the US and around the world. Bart pays his credit card account in full every month, which means he can take advantage of up to 21 days interest-free on purchases made during his trip.

Where could you use your cards?

Bart wanted to use his Unted Milage Plus to earn more miles to pay for his frequent trips on United Airlines. He used it for his big-item purchases like his heli-skiing package. Because it’s a Visa card, he could also use it over the counter for most purchases when he was in Switzerland.

What about making ATM withdrawals?

Bank ATMs in Switzerland do not charge an operator fee when you make a withdrawal. He says he didn’t have any troubles using his Visa Debit Card at ATMs and he never had to look far to find a cashpoint.

What’s your recommendation about travel money for Switzerland?

Bart says if you’re conscious of cutting out the fees for international transactions, you can’t find a better card than the Charles Schwab debit card, which is the account he’s had for years. It doesn’t charge international ATM fees, currency conversion fees or an account keeping fee.

Our pick for a prepaid travel card
Travelex Money Card

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Buying Swiss francs in the US

It’s cheaper to exchange your US dollars once you arrive in Switzerland, either at a bank or an ATM. If you do want francs before you arrive you can get money changed at any of the providers listed below. There are ATMs at every international airport (Zurich, Geneva, Basel etc), which should eliminate the need to change currency in the US.

American Express

Travelex

Worldremit

Cash pickup services in Switzerland

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
$1 Within an hour USD 3.99 0.913 CHF 910 Use promo code 3FREE to send your first 3 transfers with no fee. Send to 110+ countries for bank-to-bank deposit, cash pickup or mobile top-up. Go to site Show details
$1 Within an hour USD 8.00 0.897 CHF 890 Easily transfer cash to more than 350,000 locations around the world. Show details
$1 3 - 5 days USD 20.00 0.895 CHF 877 The biggest name in money transfers can get your funds to friends, family, or businesses in almost every corner of the globe. Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.
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